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Welcome Our Incoming Fall 2017 MFAers…

VCU MFARachel Beanland (F) earned bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in arts administration from Winthrop University. For the past decade and a half, she has worked in public relations and is now the director of operations at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Rachel writes essays and fiction and is at work on a novel set in 1930s Atlantic City. Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, on Brain, Child’s blog and in R-Home magazine, among other places. She was a general contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2015. Rachel is married with three children.

Katie Brooks (P) holds a BA in English and art history from Fairfield University, having also minored in women’s studies. Her writing is often ekphrastic in nature and has worked to interrogate womanhood and selfhood alongside exploration of bodily matter like shame and hunger. Having spent several years living on farmland in Redding, Connecticut, organic matter also features heavily in her work. When she is not writing she works at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and has an affinity for rescuing animals including kittens and seagulls.

Jessica Conley (P) earned her BA in English and religious studies and MA in secondary English education from Virginia Commonwealth University.  After graduating in 2011, she combined her passion for literature and dedication to equitable education; for five years, she taught English in Richmond City Schools and currently teaches for Prince George County Public Schools.  Her career is characterized by an insatiable pursuance of learning, completing graduate work at Goucher College in Baltimore, participating in Longwood University’s teacher leadership cohort, and now returning to VCU for her MFA in Creative Writing.  When not writing lessons or poetry, she will be training for her next race or for touring, arduously loading her Salsa Vaya to wander amid nature and remind herself of hunger, fatigue, and awe.  Jessica lives in Richmond, Virginia with her bicycles and musician husband (who shares her affinity for Roy Hargrove) in a little stone cottage.

Ciera Higginbotham (P) lives in West Point, MS, where she was born and raised by a single mother. Growing up so close to “Bulldog Country,” she always knew she would continue her education at Mississippi State University.  She received her BA in English in May 2015 and is on track to complete her MA in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis in May 2017. During grad school, she had the opportunity to complete a creative thesis, titled White Trash Girl, and chose Frank Stanford as the poet-of-study for her critical introduction; additionally, she had the opportunity to work on Jabberwock Review as Assistant Editor. She loves her cat and whenever she can tells the story of how she chose her cat’s name. In her free time, she enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows.

Lee Hodge (F) is from Norfolk, Virginia and has lived in Chicago for the last seven years where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in writing and visual art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While pursuing her degree she developed a strong interest in Russian literature as well as the southern gothic genre. Lee has worked for several cultural institutions including The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, and the Art Institute of Chicago where she held a position in the museum education department assisting in planning community programs and lectures.

Sarah Rupp (F) is from Virginia. Her grandmother was the gossip columnist for the newspaper in Franklin County. From 2011 to 2012, she played Division I lacrosse at UC Davis until she dropped out and moved to Oakland during the Occupy era. For three years, she lived in a mall in Chinatown, where she read theory and started writing speculative fiction and poetry. Sarah received her undergraduate degree from VCU in English and Creative Writing in 2017. She has a tuxedo cat named Body.

April Sopkin (F) has worked in the service industry, retail, and nine-to-five, but has been writing stories since she was a little kid. She grew up in rural Minnesota, then lived in New York City for eight years before moving to Richmond where she decided, at twenty-nine, that she might finally be ready to go to school. She just completed a Bachelor’s Degree in history at Virginia Commonwealth University and looks forward to writing, sleeping, and wasting some time this summer.

AJ White (P) lives in a green valley next to the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. He grew up in Georgia and studied English, film, and creative writing at UNC Chapel Hill, where he wrote short fiction about rapping owls, dental hygienists, and arson. After graduating in 2014 he started writing poetry about green valleys and the Tennessee River. He’s been a tutor and a high school English teacher and is currently trying to design a video game inspired by Annie Proulx’s novel Barkskins, but it’s kind of slow going.